I wondered how long it would take him to get to the Arab-Israeli issue. It was about 30 minutes. From then on it was all that anyone could talk about. He did not disappoint. The U.S. was disliked across the region because it has taken one side in the battle between Israelis and Arabs. Why it does so is a mystery. Well actually it is not a mystery, he corrected himself. But this political dynamic–he obviously meant the Israel lobby–will not change soon.
The change will come from the region. Israel is now more realistic than the Americans. It understands that it can defeat state actors forever but nonstate actors, like Hezbollah, will fight it to a draw. Hamas too. Israel understands that it cannot win. So do the Arabs. That is why there are now five peacemaking initiatives in Israel/Palestine all by regional actors, from the Turks to the Saudis to the Egyptians. The Arab world wants to move on, they accept Israel’s presence. Only one issue is still up in the air: the right of return. It must be dealt with and most of all the great Palestinian “wound” of 1948 must be dealt with. They were forced off that land. He concluded his remarks by saying that the U.S. should “be itself–be more relaxed and engage people as ordinary Americans engage people.” Fairly, good-naturedly. Then everything would change. It felt optimistic.
Welcome to the new post-Bush neighbourhood. A chastised Jewish state, emboldened Arab players and a less relevant Washington.
Amen to that (but now onto ending the crazy Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, a running sore that only increases anti-Semitism.)